Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Champs

Last night was a tremendous night, as UWM won the Horizon League tournament and secured their entry into the NCAA tournament. The game itself, though exciting due to its close score down the stretch, was one of the more poorly played by the Panthers that I’ve seen this year. It somewhat frustrates me, since the two games that I’ve seen them look their worst in this season were this game, and their dreadful loss to Wisconsin earlier in the season. Those also happen to be the two most widely seen UWM games, so I don’t think most people understand how good this team can be. Of course, after last night, I understand how bad they can be.

Enough build-up, though. On to my game points:

1) UWM missed 5 straight foul shots to open the game. Their success rate from the line didn’t improve much thereafter, either. This would have been a much less exciting game if the Panthers had completed this easy task.

2) Props to whoever’s in charge of the championship banners for UWM, since this year’s regular season championship was already recognized in banner form.

3) Pre-game was pretty exciting, since for the first time I paid Marquette-game prices to park my car near the arena. Of course, the Bucks game also going on downtown could have contributed to the ridiculous prices, but I prefer to think of it as the Panthers generating buzz. Surely the Bucks couldn’t be the only reason I encountered a 30-person line outside of Major Goolsby’s…

4) At the start of the game, I went to grab a quick bite to eat from a concession stand. The problem, however, was that I usually go to games that 3000 people attend, and I wasn’t really ready for the lines at a 10,000 person game. Thus, I did what any rational person who hates lines would do—I went to the Chinese food booth. I’ve now sampled both ethnic food stands in the MECCA, and the Chinese wins out over the Mexican booth, if for no other reason than the owner’s collection of photos of himself with B-list celebrities. I’m partial to the photos of William Hung and Milwaukee legend, Freeway, but you couldn’t really argue with the spot of honor bestowed upon Jose Canseco’s photo last night. Jose’s really earned that spot next to the fried rice.

5) We’ve already established that UWM shot poorly from the line. What else can I complain about? Well, rebounding, for one. It seemed that none of UWM’s big men were ever in a position to get near a rebound. Detroit seemed to have a perpetual triangle of players around any ball that deflected off the rim. That’s got to change if the Panthers want to keep from embarrassing themselves in the tournament.

6) UWM’s full-court press really left me frightened last night. I understand that much of the trouble that it gives people is due to rotating and gambling, but there was a bit too much gambling going on last night. The Panthers got beat a lot in transition, and the times that they didn’t get beat, they nearly game me a heart attack by releasing Detroit players to streak down the court wide open. Fortunately, no one ever hit the deep man with a pass, but it was there 6-7 times.

7) I was again seated by the opposing team’s pep band, and if there’s anything that produces more subtle humor than a college man in a polo shirt and khaki’s tapping his foot in order to keep his clarinet in time for his band’s rendition of Disco Inferno, I’d like to see it.

8) The crowd last night was awesome, and that was fun, and encouraging to see. People were cheering loudly, swearing at refs, and generally seemed to be emotionally involved in the game. It was a bit odd. I’ve got a mother that graduated from UWM, one of my closest friends is a UWM grad, and I live in a city full of UWM grads, yet I’ve never seen any type of display of pride or passion for the school amongst its attendees during all my time in this city. Until last night. Bruce Pearl is doing more for the school than I think even he realizes.

9) I said the crowd was great, but I didn’t say it was a sell-out. The PA announcer did, but I think he was lying. There were several pockets of open seats near the top of the arena. I’m doubting that there were a bunch of season ticket holders that just happened to have the worst seats in the house and decided to stay home for the biggest game of the year.

10) James Wright must have checked into the game 15 times last night, but I don’t think I ever saw him check out. Someone needs to look into how this happened.

11) After the game I went home, and though I have a cold and was incredibly tired due to the lateness of the game, I watched a bit of Sportscenter, something I almost never do. And you know what? Adrian Tigert wasn’t fouled on the drive that resulted in his game-winning free throw. I doubt it really changed the outcome, because Detroit and their shallow bench looked like they would have had at least two guys collapse if the game went to overtime, but Tigert didn’t really deserve those shots.

That’s it for now, though I’m sure I missed on some great moments form the game. Today marks the day that the big conferences take over the headlines with their conference tournaments. Hopefully I’ll come up with something mindless to do at noon so that I can listen to the Marquette game on the computer while I’m at work.


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